LIAM ROGERS WRITES — The Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, was acquitted Wednesday, December 3, on conflict-of-interest charges.
In 2014, he was accused of this by the Pheu Thai party, as he remained living in Army housing after his election. But in a unanimous decision by the constitutional court, he was found not guilty.
“The plaintiff did not commit acts that constituted conflicts of interest. He did not seek personal gains, whether directly or indirectly, nor breach ethics,” the judge said. “His ministerial post therefore does not end according to the constitution.”
Prior to the trial, Prime Minister Prayut had been fighting against student-lead groups seeking his impeachment. Since the decision on Wednesday, protestors have continued to rally against him and to seek a change in the constitution so as to diminish the power of the Thai King, Maha Vajiralongkorn. At the protests this past week, demonstrators staged a spectacle in which they impersonated those present at the conclusion of the hearing. “The court verdict shows that this country no longer has rule of law. If there is no justice, don’t ask for peace,” protesters said.
As the protests have grown violent and the numbers protesting has increased, Prime Minister Prayut is looking to swiftly de-escalate the situation. “If not addressed, it could damage the country and the beloved monarchy,” Prime Minister Prayut said.
Although the protests have become violent, are their pleas, in substance, warranted?
As it stands, Thailand is a Constitutional Monarchy which still grants the Thai Royal Family considerable power-including the repression of freedom of expression against the Crown.
The people of Thailand now live in fear of an increasingly militaristic state. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University said, “What we are seeing now is escalation leading to radicalization because the protest movement is dead-set on reforming Thailand.”
A 19-year old girl protesting from Ramkhamhaeng University demands, “Give us back democracy… We have no choice but to come out… This government has got to go.”
But as the Prime Minister put it, “It’s about destiny. Everything has been predestined. I’m not too worried. I believe in my own goodness.”
With his acquittal, the Thai public is demanding to see evidence of this destined goodness.
Will the Prime Minister’s so-called destiny determine the outcome of this political uprising? Or will the reigning government listen to, and see as destiny, the plea of the people?